Known as America’s mushroom, the morel is wide-spread, easy to identify, and delicious. Morel hunting is a common pastime in the Maupin area, and spring is a perfect time for picking. Whether you harvest morels for yourself or for commercial use, they are one of the most popular types of mushrooms that can be found in Oregon.
Where to Find Morels
Morels can usually be found in and at the edge of forests. You’ll want to seek out aspen, ash, oak, and elm trees, which have a symbiotic relationship with the mushroom. Morels can generally be found peeking up around the base of the trees. At the beginning of spring when the ground first warms, morels are likely to be found on south-facing slopes in fairly open areas where the sun reaches the ground. As the season progresses, you can find them deeper in the forest and on north-facing slopes. Morels tend to prefer well-drained and sandy soils like that found near streams.
Morel Hunting Strategies
When hunting Morels in early spring, you’ll have to keep a sharp eye out. At this stage, most of the mushrooms will be small, making them harder to spot. Usually, if you come across one morel, there are sure to be others in the area, so fan out your search in a widening circle. One sign to look for is a dead tree. Morels can often be found around trees that are starting to decay. Old apple orchards are a great place to find morels. Look for signs of decay like bark slipping off the tree, and you’ll likely find morels close by. As the spring season progresses, the mushrooms will be a lot bigger and thus easier to spot.
To help make sure there are plenty of morels next season, break the mushrooms in half before bagging them and shake the spores around the harvested area.
The first step in preparing morels is to give them a deep clean by soaking them in water for a few hours. This will remove any dirt, debris and bugs that might have been living in the hollow crevices. Slicing them in half while harvesting makes them even easier to clean.
Morels are a versatile ingredient, adding a lovely umami flavor to pastas, pizzas, tarts, and more. For the purists, after the soak, give them a quick rinse and then toss them into a hot, buttered pan. Sauté gently and enjoy! Our favorite online resource for all things morel, including classic morel recipes, is The Great Morel.
We’ll see you in the forest!